For quite some time, the Finnish education has received international acclaim for its high quality. However, in recent years, national and international evaluations have indicated certain decline in the literacy skills of children and youth. Simultaneously, the reading motivation among Finnish youth, particularly among boys, has deteriorated.
It is well known that the parents’ role in children’s literacy development is decisive. According to the international PIRLS study (2016), the literacy and reading performance of the 4 grade students in Finland is associated with not only the socio-economic background but also to a great extent with the reading habits and attitudes of the parents. The evidence shows that support and encouragement for reading provided at home on one hand and the amount of time the parents spend on reading themselves on the other will have a direct impact on the performance of the child.
Regarding literacy and linguistic development, the first years of a child are crucial. Reading aloud to a baby supports the development of literacy and language capabilities. These findings are also supported by the initial results of recent Finnish studies. Even a newborn enjoys reading, rhythm and rhyme. Eye-tracking and other studies have effectively proven that babies have a wider vocabulary than has previously been expected.
Since midpregnancy, the fetus is able to hear and create memory traits into the brain. Even a newborn recognizes its mother tongue and tries to make sounds using it. During the first year, the baby slowly starts to specialize in its mother tongue. The more successful the specialization process, the more efficient is the linguistic development in the future. That is why language development support should start ch with the help of intonation and repetition. Secondly, objects and phenomena in the environment should be
While Finland still ranks number one in the world of literacy, the motivation and enthusiasm expressed by children and adolescents towards reading is extremely low . Finnish children seem to have very low interest towards reading, writing and literary arts.
Literacy is linked to reading enjoyment. Children who like to read, read more. Because they read more, they read better, and because they read better, they read more. Positive attitudes generate a virtuous cycle where literacy fuels reading motivation and reading achievement. Literacy also supports the learning of other subjects, such as mathematics.
The amount of time the Finnish adolescents spend on reading has almost halved during the last 20 years. Currently, only 10 percent of the 15-year-old Finns read fiction several times per week, and non-fiction has even fewer young readers, merely 4 percent. Smartphones and Internet have inevitably influenced the reading habits of young people. By and large, their interest towards longer texts has lost ground.
The reading habits are changing in all age groups. Even babies and toddlers spend more and more time on smart devices. The results of the Finnish VUOKKO study indicate that children aged 2-3 read more books than watch TV, but watch more TV than use smart phones or mobile devices. However, children at the age of 6 spend much more time on television than on books and use mobile devices as much as they read or browse books and magazines. On the other hand, digital devices and applications can also be taken advantage of in reading promotion, since they may invite parents and children to new environments of reading.